The Apollo 16 Lunar Samples: Petrographic and Chemical Description

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Science  05 Jan 1973:
Vol. 179, Issue 4068, pp. 23-34
DOI: 10.1126/science.179.4068.23


The preliminary characterization of the rocks and soils returned from the Apollo 16 site has substantiated the inference that the lunar terra are commonly underlain by plagioclase-rich or anorthositic rocks. No evidence has been found for volcanic rocks underlying the regolith in the Apollo 16 region. In their place, we have found anorthositic rocks that are thoroughly modified by crushing and partial melting. The textural and chemical variations in these rocks provide some evidence for the existence of anorthositic complexes that have differentiated on a scale of tens to hundreds of meters.

The occurrence of deep-seated or plutonic rocks in place of volcanic or pyroclastic materials at this site suggests that the inference from physiographic evidence that the latter materials are widespread in terra regions may be incorrect.

Several additional, more specific conclusions derived from this preliminary examination are:

1) The combination of data from the Descartes region with data from the orbital x-ray fluorescence experiment indicates that some backside, highland regions are underlain by materials that consist of more than 80 percent plagioclase.

2) The soil or upper regolith between North Ray and South Ray has not been completely homogenized since the time of formation of these craters.

3) The chemistry of the soil indicates that rocks rich in potassium, uranium, and thorium, similar to those that prevail at the Fra Mauro site, are relatively abundant (10 to 20 percent) in the Descartes region.

4) The K/U ratio of the lunar crust is similar to that of the KREEP basalts.

5) The carbon content of the premare lunar crust is even lower than that of the mare volcanic rocks.